FUNDAMENTAL TO LIVING ON A SMALL ISLAND with no stores — in fact, no businesses of any kind — is that you learn to do a lot of things for yourself.
On Center Island, we’re not all alone in that. We’re part of a community association formed in the early 1960s, one of 180 property owners who pool our resources to make life work here. (It’s called the Center Island Association, or CIA, though the only clandestine activities involve things like figuring out who on the island is bending the rules on crab season.) Among the island’s shared resources: a tractor.
And we’re not talking a little tiny tractor you use for mowing the lawn or pulling a cart of garden tools. This is a decent-sized orange Kubota tractor with a giant shovel sort of bucket on the front and big old knobbly tires that enable it to climb, well, just about anything you might feel like climbing.
It also has a ball hitch on the back — a selection of different sizes, in fact — as the most common use for our tractor is to pull boat trailers. We use the tractor to haul boats out of the water and to relaunch them again because nobody on the island can drive their own giant pickup (island covenants don’t allow private vehicles with internal combustion engines).
So I’ve gone from being the “mild-mannered reporter” (if you remember your Clark Kent) to being a tractor driver. So far, having hauled our 1957 Skagit Express Cruiser, the WeLike, out of the water twice for cleanup and routine maintenance, I’ve managed to not flatten the caretaker’s pickup truck (the covenants don’t apply to him) though it was a near thing today. (Can I help it if he parked in a bad spot?) And I haven’t accidentally dug up anyone’s buried telephone line (unlike one of my neighbors who forgot to raise the big scoop thing before hitting the accelerator).
Next step: I plan to get some more flannel shirts. And I’m thinking of taking up chewing tobacco. (I’m told you shouldn’t spit into the wind, right?)